"We were too scarred." by richard ross

I live with my mom in Brownsville. That Flexin’ dancing is called Getting Light. They do it on the A train and C train a lot. I have 3 brothers and 3 sisters. I live with my stepdad. My dad is locked up. He has always been locked up and not really in my life much. I like my stepdad. He is very respectful. He spoils me. I went into foster care the first time when I was seven. My baby brother died and they said early that my stepdad murdered him. They took him to prison. They took all the kids away. I ended up with two sisters, living right up the block. We stayed there four or five years. They would threaten me and best me up. One of them (other kids in the foster home) stabbed me in the back. We didn’t report them. We were too scarred. I tried but they told me if we did, they would lie. I AWOLed a lot. My mother doesn’t give me any freedom. She’s knocked me unconscious. My sisters and brothers were beat by my mom all the time. She was charged with neglect. I’m not sure if she is getting any mental health services. She’s a great liar. She even accused me of murdering my baby brother. I ask myself why she brought me into the world. She has nine kids all together now. Some days she loves me, other days she hates me. She can give a fake smile that can convince anyone that the lie she is telling is the truth. She abuses us all the time. She beat us with a belt buckle. Then she goes out clubbing. She was in foster care once. Now ACS pays for it all. But still, I would rather be home. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I just go out and run away from my home. How can you earn trust if you are not given any standard to shoot for? I’m not allowed to go out at all instead of being given a curfew and see if I come home on time.

My mother doesn’t give me any freedom. She’s knocked me unconscious.

O., age 15

O., age 15

We don’t get any family counseling. But I think we will get some soon. She has an order of protection against me so I can’t go home. I was fighting with my older sister and I smacked her with a lamp. It was kind of serious. I was locked up and in jail over on Atlantic Mall jail. Then ACS picked me up. I was at the Children’s Center for two weeks. Now I have been here five months. I’m already stressing out. I got into one fight. Sometimes you have to show people who you are. Sometimes you have to forget about everything else that happened to you. I have gotten MAC awards in different classes I get 80 or 90s. I’m in 10th grade. I was held back in 5th grade. I had ADHD meds when I was younger. I’m on bi-polar meds now. Feel like I don’t need them all the time. I am not extreme bi-polar. I made a big mistake throwing the lamp . . . that’s why I am here. And all the other stuff too.

— O., Age 16.

"She kept beating me up. . ." by richard ross

I think I’m from Laverne. I live in an apartment. I don't know where, just an apartment. I live with my mom, she goes to Citrus College, my brother who’s six and sister who’s eight. I don’t do drugs. I do a lot of sports. I like to read a lot. I read everything—realistic, fiction, every kind. My friends and me, we all go to the library a lot. We read and take naps. In two weeks I go back to court. Then I either go to my mom or foster care. I went to foster care the first time at age ten. There were two other foster kids there. After 11 months, I went back to court and they told me to go back to my mom. They kept on taking me from my mom because she kept on beating me up and the neighbors would report the beatings. But now my mom has started taking parenting classes at Citrus.

My friends and me, we all go to the library a lot. We read and take naps.


My social worker came and took me to a childcare center. I spent the whole day there. Then I went to the social worker’s office and I stayed with her until midnight while they called and tried to find a foster home for me. Finally V, the social worker, took me to a foster home in Simi Valley. My brother and sister went to one foster care home and I went to another. I’d like to go live with my dad, he lives somewhere in Florida. My dad left my mom. They had an argument when I was 8 and dad said he needed his own space. That was four years ago. I saw him once in foster care and then twice since I’ve been here. The last time was only yesterday. He works for a company in Florida. They don’t give him any breaks and he works a lot of over shifts and weekends.

-K.F., age 12


**Interviews with youth are recorded to the best of our ability. All personal histories and anecdotes are self-reported by the children. To protect confidentiality of the youth, identities have been obscured, initials have been changed, and identifying details have been removed. Interviews have not been edited for content.